‘Find what’s real’
By Alberta Bouyer
“When one speaks of Questa, it is to comment on the beauty of a land flanked by mountains and deserts. It is an unspoiled valley where the local economy still depends on agriculture instead of tourism. Nestled alongside an old Kiowa trail, the village of Questa harkens back to Spanish gold-seekers Juan Humana and Francisco Borilla who were killed by tribes along the Purgatoire River in 1593. After the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, repopulation of Questa was slow to return. By 1820 though, a permanent village of Spanish, French and Jewish settlers was noted in local archives.” — Local historian and educator Larry Torres
Questa is known for its quiet charm, and the beautiful protected lands that surround this tiny village less than 30 miles north of Taos.
More and more hidden gems of properties are coming online as rentals. Some of these are tucked in by the Red River that runs behind the village, others are nestled in Cabresto Canyon with horses grazing out the window. These join the small, family-run motels and cabins along the main road that are an easy commute to nearby ski slopes.
What the locals know is that access to the Río Grande del Norte National Monument, just west of Questa, never closes. If you wake up to snow; throw your cross-county skis in the car and head for the Rinconada Loop Trail for 6 miles of flat skiing with stunning gorge views. The trail can be entered at any of the campground parking lots and it’s easy to create smaller loops to match your time or stamina.
Hiking into the gorge in this Wild Rivers area of the national monument is a favorite Taos outing. On a clear Winter day, these steep 1-mile-trails are a pleasure, with the reward of a sparkling river and hidden petroglyphs.
On the other side of Questa are trails along State Highway 38 toward the town of Red River. Columbine Canyon is not only a favorite for dry-weather hiking, but is a wonderful place to strap on your snowshoes and trek as near or far as your heart desires. The higher altitude here and thick surrounding pines hold the snowpack well, and a whitetail deer may await you in the meadows.
If one stays along the ridge on Cabresto Road and continues into the Carson National Forest, beautiful vistas come into view. This corner of the forest is a favorite for long snowmobile rides. Cabresto Road is not plowed very far beyond the uphill turn-off to the lake. Adventurers should drive as far as possible and continue into the wild on foot, skis or snowmobile. And for another challenge, see if you can find the remains of Midnight Mine.
In the heart of town is the San Antonio de Padua church, which was built soon after the permanent village was established in 1842. This historic adobe structure underwent an all-volunteer renovation and was reconsecrated. The church is highlighted during the annual Alumbra de Questa event, as the Christmas craft market culminates with an evening of lights that lead the way to this unique testament to the faith and craftsmanship of this enduring community. Also featured are a variety of regional arts and crafts, and festive food. This year’s event will be held Dec. 15, from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. in the center of town.
And on March 30, join in the special day-long Río Grande Cutthroat Fish Festival as cutthroat trout are restocked in Eagle Rock Lake in the Wild Rivers Recreation Area. The event includes live music, a scavenger hunt, fish blessing ceremony, vendors and more.
For further information regarding winter and spring activities go online to questa-nm.com or phone tourism staff at (575) 613-2852. You can reach the Questa Ranger District of the Carson National Forest year round, Mon.-Fri., at (575) 586-0520. The BLM Wild Rivers Visitors Center can be reached at (575) 586-1150 (reduced hours off-season, but informative phone messages are posted).
— Scott Gerdes contributed to this article